Critical Consensus | Year In Review | Chicago Reader

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Critical Consensus

The Year in Theater: At last, our critics write short!


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Best Performance

Mary Shen Barnidge: The Chicago Conspiracy Trial cast. Their characters were watching, too.

Lawrence Bommer: Clarence Thomas. Runner-up: Melinda Moonahan in Touchstone's Moon for the Misbegotten.

Justin Hayford: The Jeff Committee, for making meaningless rules even more so.

Jack Helbig: Lynda J. "All the World's a Staged Reading" Barry.

Adam Langer: The overzealous farm animal that baa'd its way through Steppenwolf's Curse of the Starving Class.

Achy Obejas: Jenny Magnus in the ultimate horror story, "Robert."

Diana Spinrad: Tom Tresser's arts-advocacy road show.

Tom Valeo: Dev Kennedy, who managed to be eloquent without uttering a word in The Golem.

Albert Williams: Under Milk Wood and its delicate, forceful, virtuosic ensemble.

Biggest Bomb

Mary Shen Barnidge: The War Notebooks. Four wars with only 15 soldiers.

Lawrence Bommer: Goodman's Midsummer Night's Dream: high tech concept swallows Bard, burps.

Justin Hayford: MoMing's closing.

Jack Helbig: The American Theatre Critics Association convention. For this I stuffed envelopes?

Adam Langer: Should be detonated underneath the next theater that attempts a Shepard revival.

Achy Obejas: Nearly every troupe that claimed to be revolutionizing Chicago comedy.

Diana Spinrad: Jeff Committee's attempt to make nominees pay for awards-show admission.

Tom Valeo: The Problem Is Women; the Problem Is Men. The problem was the insipid script.

Albert Williams: The defunct Set Gourmet Theatre--un bombe flambe that melted.

Watch For

Mary Shen Barnidge: Lotsa "We the People" and "Hallelujah, I'm a Bum" epics.

Lawrence Bommer: Barto Productions' Under Milk Wood--the year's most perfect show.

Justin Hayford: Doorika's next underattended masterpiece.

Jack Helbig: Copycat camp comedies based on tedious early-70s sitcoms.

Adam Langer: Barto Productions, Renegade Theatre Company, Tight & Shiny.

Achy Obejas: Joan Jett Blakk, black madonna, Queer Nation presidential candidate, drag diva.

Diana Spinrad: More collaboration between commercial producers and not-for-profits.

Tom Valeo: Steve Pickering, who can do Shakespeare or soft shoe and design costumes too.

Albert Williams: Shear Madness to outlast us all.

Watch Out For

Mary Shen Barnidge: Too many shows opening at the same time and canceling each other out. Malthus came to the theater this year.

Lawrence Bommer: Theaters that pack opening nights with clappers and chortlers to convince critics the show's already a hit. Human laugh tracks--a strategy bound to backfire.

Justin Hayford: Yet another year of overattended jacked-up one-note misogynist rock-and-roll theater nonsense.

Jack Helbig: Any shows with the words "Phantom," "Opera," or "of the" in the title.

Adam Langer: The narcoleptic Jeff Committee judge who will melodically snore through all Barto, Renegade, and Tight & Shiny productions.

Achy Obejas: Performance art extravaganzas. Better to savor performance morsel by morsel, act by act. Otherwise, even at its best, it can be simply too much.

Diana Spinrad: Theaters being closed down for building violations. Few theaters meet the stringent codes and the city seems finally to be realizing it.

Tom Valeo: Anyone who speaks too enthusiastically about how Chicago theater has become an "industry."

Albert Williams: Shear Madness to outlast us all.

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